In most fighting games, movement is a crucial element of the games neutral game. Games like Guilty Gear and Dragon Ball FigtherZ rely heavily on capitalizing out of dashes to both punish and mix up the opponent. It adds an extra layer that gives the player a bunch of options, making the game way more fun.
In contrast, a game like Super Smash Bros. Brawl possesses extremely clunky movement. Characters randomly trip when moving, consequently slowing the game down. Just for that reason, the competitive community wasn’t particularly passionate about Brawl. Its predecessor, Melee, is the complete opposite. Smash’s competitive scene found a way to put the game’s movement on steroids. Wavedashing, one of Melee’s core (albeit unintended) mechanics, opens up a multitude of options. To this day, its community regularly holds tournaments with hundreds of entrants.
Now, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate has found a sweet spot between crazy movement and slow gameplay. Most movement relies on using the character’s initial dash speed to maneuver around the opponent. This adds a bunch of extra options that Smash 4 lacked.
An initial dash is executed when a player starts a dash animation. To do this, the control stick must flick to one direction, and then the dash animation begins. Before beginning the dash, the player can: perform a smash attack, perform a tilt attack, perform a special attack, shield, jump, etc… Basically, after using an initial dash, the player can do whatever they want.
This isn’t as crazy as Melee’s movement, yet it adds a nice layer to Ultimate’s neutral game. In Smash 4, initial dashes were practically useless. To move, players had to maneuver around the “perfect pivot” technique, which allowed players to quickly turn around and avoid enemy attacks or achieve a specific level of spacing. Perfect Pivoting’s level of execution was higher and wasn’t as useful as Ultimate’s initial dash. Instead, they helped execute whiff punishes in a more calculated way.
It’s safe to say that to be proficient at Ultimate, a player must learn how to act out of an initial dash. The options it provides are too good to pass up. As an example, let’s say a player attempts to land near their opponent, within an aerial attack’s range. The attack is perfectly spaced, but by using the initial dash, the opponent manages to avoid danger and they now have a window to punish accordingly.
Among the additions to Ultimate, this is one of the most significant. It manages to speed up the game while pushing past previous barriers.
Trouble in Paradise
Initial dashes are great, yet they have a high level of inconsistency among the cast. Characters like Bowser and Marth are tied for the fifth in top dash speed in the game. Meanwhile, Captain Falcon, always recognized for his speed, is tied at 29th with Link.
These values seem either random or seemingly incorrect. Charizard, a pretty slow character, is number four in this list. As a result, it shows the balancing team taking certain creative liberties with the game. What do they have in mind for this? Only time will tell.
Smash’s competitive community has a lot of time to voice their opinions about in regards to who deserves a buff in this department. It’s safe to say that specific characters should be faster, and others are currently way above their paygrade.
Right now, it isn’t one of the most significant issues the game suffers, but it’s still prevalent. Moreover, as initial dashes are a heavily utilized mechanic, they deserve some more attention and tweaking that future patches can provide. It’s imperative to keep an eye on the different range of actions that make up a highly competitive environment and develop them. In doing so, the game can grow past any expectation and make strides among the esports community.